I'm not a mom of teenagers. Heck, my baby is barely one! But over the last five years I have taught over 1500 teens (probably a low estimate!!) and they tell me things, things that would shock most of you (and that's probably what they were going for: shock). And when you get to see that large of a sample, you see patterns. So here is some advice for parents of teens. At the very least, I want to remember it for when my kids are teens! So if you don't want to listen, no hard feelings. This can just be for me.
Help your girls have a good self esteem
Sometimes I freak out thinking about my students and worrying that my daughter will grow up to be just like them. Their shirts are too low, their skirts are too short, their earrings and hair and nails too crazy. But when I get to know the girls that cause these panic attacks, its easy to see the patterns. They don't feel good about themselves, they need attention from boys to boost their feelings. Some simple things you can do:
Tell them you love them. Once a girl got a text in class. Her eyes brimmed with tears and she looked at me and said, "My mom just said 'I love you," for the first time in two months." No matter how much you fight with your kids or how rebellious they seem they just want your love. I promise. I have never heard a student tell me otherwise.
Show them they're important by being there for them. One student had been in my classes for over two years. I get these types, they click with me and take everything I offer. I love it! She stayed one day after school to make up a test. She always complained about her mom not buying her enough things or not getting her the phone she wanted (even though she had a LOT of clothes and an iPhone even I couldn't afford). But that day while she was in my class her mom called. From what I heard I could tell her mom was calling to say she would not be coming home from her trip as soon as she planned. My girl said, "You are my mom. Do you know what moms do? They help you and they're there for you. You have a daughter! You need to come home!" It was so emotional I knew I never wanted my daughter to feel that way.
Show them they're important by setting limits and rules. My first year of teaching I would visit with my students during class, rotating through each desk off 6 students. (I only taught in that room for one year, but I always missed the set up that allowed me to chat with all of my students easily) On one desk a girl was talking about tattoos and piercings. "My parents would never let me do that," one girl said dejectedly. The 15-year-old, who was the ringleader of this conversation, said "My dad will let me do anything. He loves me." This poor girl was searching for attention she didn't get at home. She had to tell herself he loved her, because the only thing he did to show it was ignore her.
All of my students are worthy of love. The ones that dress in black and look extreme were maybe the most in need of it. I can't think of a student that I got to know where I didn't find a soft loving heart deep (but not as deep as you think) inside.